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Exodus ( , exodos, meaning "departure") or Shemot (Hebrew: שמות, literally "names") is the second book of the Hebrew Bible, and the second of five books of the Torah/Pentateuch.

The book relates the biblical narrative telling how Moses leads the Hebrews out of Egypt and through the wilderness to the Mountain of God: Sinaimarker. There Yahweh, through Moses, gives the Hebrews their laws and enters into a covenant with them, by which he will give them the land of Canaan in return for their faithfulness. The book ends with the construction of the Tabernacle.

According to tradition, Exodus and the other four books of the Torah were written by Moses. However, modern biblical scholarship places its final textual form in the mid 5th century BCE, i.e. post-exilic but earlier than the Hellenistic period, although some parts, such as the Song of the sea and the Covenant Code may date to as early as the 9th to 10th century BCE.


In Hebrew the book is called Shemot, meaning "Names", from the first word of the Hebrew text, in line with the other four books of the Torah. When the Bible was translated into Greek in the 3rd century BCE to produce the Septuagint, the name given was Exodus ( , exodos) meaning "departure", in line with the Septuagint use of subject themes as book names. The Greek title has continued to be used in all subsequent Latin and English versions of the book, and most other languages.


Bondage in Egypt

An unnamed Pharaoh, fearful of the Israelites' numbers, orders that all newborn boys be thrown into the Nile. A Levite woman saves her baby by setting him adrift on the river in an ark of bulrushes. The pharaoh's daughter finds the child, and names him Moses, and brings him up as her own. But Moses is aware of his origins, and one day, when grown, kills an Egyptian overseer who is beating a Hebrew man, and has to flee into Midian There he marries, and while herding the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro on Mount Horeb, encounters God in a burning bush. God reveals his name, YHWH, to Moses, and tells him to return to Egypt and lead the Hebrews into Canaan, the land promised to Abraham.

Moses returns to Egypt, where God again says his name to Moses. God instructs Moses to appear before the pharaoh and inform him of God's demand that he let God's people go. Moses and his brother Aaron do so, but pharaoh refuses. God causes a series of plague to strike Egypt, but pharaoh does not relent. God instructs Moses to institute the Passover sacrifice among the Israelites, and kills all the firstborn children and livestock throughout Egypt. The pharaoh then agrees to let the Israelites go. Moses explains the meaning of the Passover: it is for Israel's salvation from Egypt, so that the Israelites will not be required to sacrifice their own sons, but to redeem them.

Journey through the wilderness to Sinai

Liberation of Israelites

The Exodus begins. The Israelites, 600,000 men plus women and children and a mixed multitude, with their flocks and herds, set out for the mountain of God. The pharaoh pursues them, and Yahweh destroys the Egyptian army at the crossing of the Red Sea (Yam Suf). The Israelites celebrate. The desert proves arduous, and the Israelites complain and long for Egypt, but God provides manna and miraculous water for them. The Israelites arrive at the mountain of God, where Moses' father-in-law Jethro visits Moses; at his suggestion Moses appoints judges over Israel.

At Sinai: Covenant and laws

The Israelites arrive at the mountain of God. Yahweh asks whether they will agree to be his people, and they accept. The people gather at the foot of the mountain, and with thunder and lightning, fire and clouds of smoke, and the sound of trumpets, and the trembling of the mountain, God appears on the peak, and the people see the cloud and hear the "voice" of God Moses and Aaron are told to ascend the mountain. God pronounces the Ten Commandments (the Ethical Decalogue) in the hearing of all Israel.

Moses goes up the mountain into the presence of God, who pronounces the Covenant Code, (a detailed code of ritual and civil law), and promises Canaan to the Hebrews if they obey. Moses descends and writes down Yahweh's words and the people agree to keep them. Yahweh calls Moses up the mountain together with Aaron and the elders of Israel, and they feast in the presence of Yahweh. Yahweh calls Moses up the mountain to receive a set of stone tablets containing the law, and he and Joshua go up, leaving Aaron in charge. Yahweh appears on the mountain "like a consuming fire" and calls Moses to go up, and Moses goes up the mountain.

Yahweh gives Moses instructions for the construction of the tabernacle so that God can dwell permanently amongst his chosen people, as well as instructions for the priestly vestments, the altar and its appurtenances, the ritual to be used to ordain the priests, and the daily sacrifices to be offered. Aaron is appointed as the first High Priest, and the priesthood is to be hereditary in his line. Then Yahweh gives to Moses the two stone tablets containing these instructions, written by God's own finger.

Aaron makes a golden calf, which the people worship. God informs Moses of their apostasy and threatens to kill them all, but relents when Moses pleads for them. Moses comes down from the mountain, smashes the tablets in anger, and commands the Levites to massacre the disobedient. Yahweh commands Moses to make two new tablets on which He will personally write the words that were on the first tablets. Moses ascends the mountain, God dictates the Ten Commandments (the Ritual Decalogue), and Moses writes them on the tablets.

Moses descends from the mountain, and his face is transformed, so that from that time onwards he has to hide his face with a veil. Moses assembles the Hebrews and repeats to them the commandments he has received from Yahweh, which are to keep the Sabbath and to construct the Tabernacle. "And all the construction of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting was finished, and the children of Israel did according to everything that Yahweh had commanded Moses", and from that time Yahweh dwelt in the Tabernacle and ordered the travels of the Hebrews.

Structure and composition

See also


External links

Online versions and translations of Exodus

Hebrew translations

Christian translations

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